|Hundreds of activists stage a candlelight vigil in central Seoul on Saturday, protesting the government’s crackdown on a railway workers’ strike and calling for an independent investigation into government agencies alleged to have interfered in last year’s presidential election. (Yonhap News)|
South Koreans living abroad in Paris, Berlin and New York have held candlelight vigils this week to protest the meddling in last year’s presidential election by government organizations, sources said Saturday.
Organizers of the rallies that took place in the foreign cities said dozens of protesters showed up on or around the one-year anniversary of the Dec. 19 election to denounce the National Intelligence Service, the country’s spy agency, and the defense ministry’s psychological warfare unit for their involvement in illegal meddling in the election.
Some protesters said the meddling clearly showed the unfairness of the election, asserting that President Park Geun-hye should resign and the election result be declared null and void. They also called for disbanding the state bodies involved in the election scandal.
Leading up to the December poll, officials at the two agencies had used various online portals and social networking sites to conduct a smear campaign against the opposition contender. Those directly involved have been indicted for violating their duty as public officials to maintain political neutrality.
Though the effects that such tactics may have had on the outcome of the election are disputed, the opposition has insisted that it helped the ruling party’s candidate win and hurt the chances of its own contender for the country’s top post.
The ruling camp and the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae have brushed off such claims as groundless.
President Park, who was the standard bearer for the conservative Saenuri Party and won the race by a little over a million votes, a relatively large margin compared to past elections, said on numerous occasions that she neither knew about the smear operations at the time nor benefited from such activities.
Reflecting the split the issue has caused among the South Korean diaspora, the New York rally was met by a counter-protest that opposed moves to invalidate the election result based on action by a handful of people.
Beside the rallies in the three cities, South Korean expatriates in the United States, Britain and Canada said they too will hold protests in the coming days to make their position known.
The latest string of rallies come after South Korean students in France protested at Place du Trocadero in Paris while President Park was on a state visit there. (Yonhap News)